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Climate change threatens Europe's ski resorts - better preparation for Austria

Will skiing in Austria be possible with a global warming of +2° or +4° degrees Celsius? LIFE researchers are involved in a newly published paper on the impact of climate change on European ski tourism in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Foto eines Skigebietes mit kaum Schnee

Auswirkungen des Klimawandels auf den europäischen Skitourismus, Foto: JOANNEUM RESEARCH

Warmer temperatures caused by climate change are likely to have a massive impact on European and, of course, Austrian ski resorts in the coming decades. More than half of 2,234 analysed European ski resorts will have a "very high risk" of insufficient natural snow supply at a global warming of two degrees Celsius. At four degrees Celsius, almost all ski resorts will be affected, according to a new study by JOANNEUM RESEARCH - Institute LIFE in cooperation with Météo-FranceCNRS – Centre national de la recherche scientifique and Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE).


The study in detail:

Ski tourism is an essential economic activity of mountain regions in Europe and, due to climate change, unfortunately also increasingly vulnerable to snow shortages. However, the risk of snow supply due to climate change for ski tourism has not been quantified consistently across Europe until now, including the impact as well as the environmental footprint of artificial snowmaking. This study shows that the risk of snow supply for ski tourism increases with the degree of global warming, heterogeneously within and between mountain areas and countries. 2,234 ski resorts in 28 European countries were studied and the result showed that at 2 degrees Celsius of global warming without additional snowmaking, 53% of ski resorts will face a very high risk of snow shortage. The risk of snow shortage at 4 degrees of global warming would even increase dramatically to 98 %. In contrast, the assumption of a partial snowmaking coverage of 50 % leads to a corresponding reduction in the risk of snow poverty. This would then apply to 27% (at + 2 °C) and 71% (at + 4 °C) of European ski areas, but with an associated increase in water and electricity demand and the associated carbon footprint from snowmaking. However, this represents only a modest fraction of the total CO2 footprint in ski tourism as a whole. Snowmaking will thus become an indispensable tool in the future to face the challenges related to adaptation and mitigation of climate change as well as sustainable development in the mountains and the associated high socio-ecological vulnerability.


Austria comes off better in the comparison, because in our regions snowmaking was used relatively early on to save ski resorts. In Austria, 294 ski resorts were examined in this study and it was found that with two degrees of warming plus 50 per cent snowmaking, about three per cent of Austrian ski resorts will still have a high risk of snow shortage. At three degrees, it is 13 per cent and at four degrees, it would be 38 per cent of Austrian ski areas that would be affected by a very high risk of lack of snow despite snowmaking.


Study „Climate change exacerbates snow-water-energy challenges for European ski tourism

Published in the journal "nature climate change" 28 August 2023

Hugues François, Raphaëlle Samacoïts, David Neil Bird, Judith Köberl, Franz Prettenthaler, Samuel Morin




Dr Franz Prettenthaler, M.Litt
Director LIFE
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